#65 Travel Budgeting

It's an exciting time of the year. Christmas is coming, but that's not what I'm talking about.

It's vacation time! We've got a super ultra fun special trip planned.

We're starting it off in Taiwan to see my wife's family, learning how to make Grandma's "Super Amazing Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup", and a buffet with the family with a view looking up to Taipei 101.

Then off to Japan's southern island of Kyushu. We will visit one of the cities that suffered an atomic bomb strike in World War II, Nagasaki. Taking in the sights, sounds, and most importantly the food. Our menu is packed full of cakes, noodles, sushi, bbq meats, and tea before we move on to the next city, Yufuin. 

Yufuin is a small onsen (hot spring) town in the upper east of Kyushu, with a population of just over 10,000. We'll meet up with our friends to enjoy a fabulous kaiseki dinner on my birthday, and cap off the evening in the mineralized hot spring bath. The tingle all over your body, the humidity on your face, the steam filling your lungs, onsen water is really something special. It's nothing like a regular hot bath. The feelings of relaxation pierce your brain to the core.

For those wondering, Kaiseki is a traditional set-menu style Japanese dinner usually including in excess of 10 small courses. In North America, think tapas.

The trip continues to Fukuoka, the largest city on the island of Kyushu where we will close out the week-long vacation eating ramen, more sushi, local pancakes, and visiting a castle and a park on a lake. 

To tell you I'm excited would be an understatement. I'm even excited for the train rides between cities. Japan has the best trains with bento (lunch) boxes. 

Now the question is how much is this going to cost me?

Travel Budget

From a high level. In 2017, we budgeted $12,500 exclusively for travelling. That's a pretty hefty budget, but reasonable in our case considering the last 3 years we have spent on average $13,600 on travel.

This will be our last trip for this year. Our budget has $3,674 left according to our expense report.

Are we going to spend all of it? Let's see. I'm going to go step by step through the math for the first time now.

We booked this trip on Aeroplan reward points, but we still had to pay airport taxes and fuel surcharges of $688.32.

Normally a flight like this would cost about $1,200 each ($2,400), so we saved about $1,700 by using our points. Winning!

Earlier this year we stayed in an Airbnb in Tokyo and were not pleased with the experience. The location was good, and space was enough, but the mattress and pillows were uncomfortable and the air draft from the window was unbearable even with the heat blasting. This time around we're going with 3-star hotels. Costing between $100 to $150 per night. In total for 6 nights, hotels will cost $860. In Taipei, we're staying with family, so it's free!

Before you think that the cost is too much. Remember the Kaiseki dinner in Yufuin, that's included in the hotel cost, a value worth about $100 and includes a traditional Japanese breakfast the next morning. And 3 other nights include breakfast as well. I'm actually really excited about these breakfasts. They usually prove to be quite interesting and delicious.

We will need internet so we can get Google Maps working on our phones while we move around the country. We still haven't decided between getting a pocket Wifi or two sim cards. The cost will be around $75.

We bought our 5-day train pass, which will cover most of the transportation in Japan. $222 for two passes. Some individual trips on the tail end of the trip and in Taipei will cost about $20/day x 3 days = $60

All other food is going to be where the variability can come into play. We budget breakfasts as $10 per person per day, Lunch at $10, Dinner at $20, and the all-important snacks at $20 per day. So important!!! We can spend all day eating snacks if we aren't careful.

Finally, we are treating our family to a buffet in Taiwan on the second day of the trip. This is $70 per person or about $560 for the whole family.

Do you hear the cash registers "ka-ching"?

Well, some of these costs have already been paid. And won't be adding to our 2017 travel expenses.

Only $199 of our hotel cost have yet to be paid. And the flights are paid with points. The train pass has also been paid. So what's left?

$600 for food, $560 for the buffet, $75 for internet, $60 for extra transportation, and let's throw in $250 for souvenirs. 

Our remaining travel expenses are about $1,744.

The total cost of this trip will be about $3,316.

With $3,674 left in our travel budget, it looks like we are going to come in $1900 under budget!.


When we go on vacation, we don't hold back. We've already spent the money and time to travel across oceans and the world. Our travel spending is a practice of "Controlled Spontaneity".

We buy what we want because we've already budgeted for it. It's the same way we spend at home. We budget our spending for the entire year and keep track of our expenses so we know we can spend and still stay in our budget.

We still have our intentional spending habits in place. We know what we care about and what we want to spend our money on. On vacation that means food.

If we come across a $12 pack of Fukuoka Japanese strawberries, you won't be able to hold me down. Some things are worth it, and that's one of them. I never knew the potential of a strawberry until I devoured a $12 pack of Japanese strawberries 3 years ago.

YOLO, you-only-live-once. You can still enjoy your life, just budget for it.

Japanese Strawberries


Save Money Retire Early is written by Jon Lo, a barely 30 something change optimist, and personal finance guy. I believe anyone can be rich or poor, it's what you save that makes the difference.

Follow on FacebookYouTube, Seeking AlphaTwitter 

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published